This Is Why The iPhone's Screen May Always Be 3.5 Inches

Why does the iPhone have a 3.5-inch screen? Why do larger smartphones feel awkward on your hand? Dustin Curtis reckons he has the answer:

Touching the upper-right corner of the screen on the Galaxy S II using one hand, with its 4.27-inch screen, while you're walking down the street looking at Google Maps, is extremely difficult and frustrating. I pulled out my iPhone 4 to do a quick test, and it turns out that when you hold the iPhone in your left hand and articulate your thumb, you can reach almost exactly to the other side of the screen.

His graphic shows this clearly. It makes some sense. And explains why we may not see any larger screen iPhones. Still, people do perfectly fine with big screen phones like the Galaxy S II, so who knows what Apple could do in the future. [dcurtis]


Comments

    You must have small hands then. I bought the Galaxy S2 on friday and it is amazing and yes its a little bigger, but not in the awkward zone at all.

      you know what they say about people with small hands? Apple Fan-Boy.

        And there we have it. The link has been made.
        If you own an iPhone you have a small penis.

          And if you buy a Galaxy.....no penis at all?

            And there is the other hallmark of the Apple fanboy, the inability to take a joke!

          I have a HTC Desire HD and have no problems reaching all corners of its 4.3" screen.
          Heeelllooo ladies ;)

          If you buy an android powered phone then you're broke.

        There is definitely a correlation between people who decide to hate any given tech company and massive dicks. :P

      The iPhone needs to be smaller to meet the needs of its target market. It is, after all, a children's toy. :P

        Hey, my "end sarcasm" tag get removed by the comments system. Now it looks like I'm genuinely trolling. :(

        +1

        My man!

          Steve, if you put your 'end sarcasm' tag in actual tag 'brackets' (the greater than/less than signs) then websites will sometimes think it's an actual html tag and so make it invisible in the actual published comment :P

      Guys - all this BS about MUST HAVE A BIGGER SCREEN have to stop. There is room for every phone in the market. Obviously some people like a huge screen, which make for a huge phone. Others, like me, prefer the slightly smaller screens which make for a smaller phone. It doesn't make one better then the other, only different.
      As I said - I prefer the smaller screen on the iPhone not because its an iPhone but because of its size.
      BTW, sone of my friend pointed out to me that the Apple os, because it is apple, is more secure as opposed to the Android, which is Google, and by definition is an open system. Not as secure.
      So there - anyone can have the phone of their choice and no matter what - you are going to be happy with your choice.

    Research metrics is such a wounderful thing

      Also known as - Anthropometry - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://bit.ly/oYrT3a

    I agree there are downsides to a larger screen. But so too of smaller. Tho the clarity of the iPhone and ppi ATM is far better then any I far prefer my galaxy 2 to the iPhone 4 screen, and I have both. Adjusting positioning and getting a feel for the Samsung to use one handed takes a little more time. But that's the beauty of iPhone..simple for more everyone to use...right from the start.

    I have a Nexus S wiith 4" and have no problem at all. The phone fits comfortabely in my hand and I can touch all screen areas without trouble. I am a tall person so it goes I have long fingers. Maybe the issue here is you need to consider your hand size when buying a phone. The new fleet of android Gigantor >4" screens may look pretty cool but may not be practical for you. I chose the Nexus s because it gave me a bit more screen real estate but wasn't a monster in my hand or in my pocket.My father has a Galaxy S2, he does not seem troubled by the 4.2" size. Again it's choice and for me the 4" screen is a pretty good fit.

    Most*

    So what. Design a UI that has all of the key functions available in that "finger range". This is certainly not a way to justify only having a 3.5" screen.

      How is usability not a justification in a design decision.

      Design is not about "justification".

    I'm sorry but this is some dodgy krap. Depending how I hold my phone, I have no problem getting my thumb right over to the far corners. That said, I can't think of any reason not to hold it in one hand and use it with the other. I even use my 3.3" Zune HD that way. Clearly that is why this clown is holding it in his left hand in the first place.

      You call him a clown, yet you use two hands to operate devices that most people only use one?

      Me personally, i don't get the "MUST HAVE A BIGGER SCREEN!!!" obsession. Bigger screen = bigger phone, and frankly I don't care to have massive phone. That said, the HTC Aria i was given from work was tiny and useless.

        @Scott said, "You call him a clown, yet you use two hands to operate devices that most people only use one?"

        When typing on a smartphone, the majority of people use two hands - either by typing using both their thumbs or hold the phone with one hand and peck with the other.

        One of the primary uses of a smartphone is to play games - the majority of which require two hands.

        MotorMouth isn't the one I'd be calling a clown.

        Regarding the original post - I think it's garbage unless he also provides a study showing that everyone has the same sized hand and holds it the exact same way.

        Also, with the plethora of multi-touch commands available why would the designers have single-hand usage as a core constraint?

          "When typing on a smartphone, the majority of people use two hands – either by typing using both their thumbs or hold the phone with one hand and peck with the other."

          You have to be joking.

            Typing with both hands, I've done that since my nokia 1100 with a numeric keyboard. Yeah sure i can do it with one thumb with ease yet two thumbs makes it quicker.

            @markd

            You have to be ignorant if you think that it's not more efficient to type like that and that others haven't realised that as well.

      my first thought was; stupid graphic, most people are right handed.

      lefty myself, but i'd still expect him to cater to the majority

      Zune! haha :D

    Look up bell curve in relation to hand sizes I'm sure apple did. I have the gs2 and it is a pain to reach a corner sometimes but that's only 2% of the time and that 2% does not justify me buying a 3.5 inch screen over a 4.27inch screen.

      Smart way to look at it. I'm inclined to agree.

        While this is an immensely sensible explanation, the sad reality is that apple are building the phone to a price point. Smaller screen equals less cost and more margin for the price.

          sad reality? why are you people always so sad about tech companies making money? Don't you come to Gizmodo because you like technology?

    I have no trouble with my 4.2" Arc.

    I'm able to reach all over my Galaxy SII's screen with my thumb no problems. 195 cm tall.

      195 is about normal man sized - comments from everyone under that are obviously less relevant.

    Far out guys! I'm 6ft and have large hands, I struggle to hold my iPhone in my left hand and tap the top right with my thumb, there must be a lot of people out there with massive hands!

    I wouldn't go over 3.5in despite the SG2 looking so beautiful with it's bigger screen. Like the OP I frequently hold use my phone that way.

    I use a 4.3 inch screen and my thumb can reach throughout the whole screen without an issue.

    I have a Galaxy S2 and have noticed that I can barely use it with one hand. Fortunately if I adjust my grip I can reach everything, but I have noticed its a little on the big side, and infact I've been worning people I know with small hands that the Galaxy S2 is probably too big for them if they like using their phones one-handed.

    Depends how you hold it. As a Galaxy and iPhone owner (one for work, one for personal use) I have to say I prefer the iphone sizing. its just easier, more compact.

    The net on my Galaxy looks better though purely for the larger screen.

    If you hold your phone on your fingers rather than in your palm, while slightly more precarious, it should allow you to reach the entire screen. Just tried it with a 4.0" Samsung Focus and I could reach further than the edge of the screen.

      +1 to you sir, exactly what I do.

      That being said even if I have it in my palm, my thumb is capable of getting the knuckle of the edge of an iPhone. This guy must have childlike hands.

    mentioned this in a thread yesterday or the day before, and got labelled as "clutching at straws". glad to see a post explaining the logic. if the iphone had smaller borders it could probably go up to 3.7-8. but then the resolution would have to go up to keep that pixel density the same and then you would end up with lots of ugly apps.

    So what I'm hearing is that if you hold the larger screened phones differently then everything is good? Wow, where have I heard an outcry about people being forced to hold their phones differently before? :)

      I dont see no one complaining about being forced to hold it differently. Stupid apple haters.

        Forgot to add in the :P. The :P changes it all. :P

    I personally like the larger screens. So here's a tip: If your having trouble reaching some phone functions why not just arrange your apps and phone functions on your home screens to be in reach of one handed phone usage.

    I'm calling bullshit. I have small hands and I have no dramas reaching any portion of my GSII screen. I hold it differently to my 3GS, but that was always going to happen. MY only gripe is I sometimes inadvertently touch the back capacitive button.

    It's simple, buy a freak'n tablet if you want i big screen.

      You get a tablet and carry it in your pocket.

        ...get a bigger pocket " )

    Seems to be an arguement for not making the device larger as opposed to keeping the screen at 3.5". If they reduced the bezel on the side and extended the display a bit vertically while not making the unit any larger, you'd have a fairly negligible different in finger coverage while being able to make the screen a bit larger. Not 4.2" but I reckon you could get it to 3.8" or so at least.

    This guy must be a midget or something because my Galaxy s2 isn't some huge monster phone in my hand and it's not rocket science to use it. The iphone screen is 3.5 inches because Apple says you want a 3.5 inch screen thats it.

      Yes, thats right. A designer has made a design decision about their product. I'll never truly understand why that makes nerds so angry.

    His thumb must be double jointed or something for it to have the range of a semi-circle from the average holding position.

    So does that mean that apple is never going to come up with a bigger screen or they are going to wait till the human race is genetically fit for a larger screen size.
    I feel is a just a matter of getting used to a bigger screen. Humans can adapt and have done that for ages. I am sure there would have been a time when even a 3.5" screen would feel big.
    Also why did these explanations not come out an year ago or before Apple released 4S?

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